Bryan Caplan  

The Incredible Vanishing Minarchist

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In the 70s and 80s, a great intellectual battle waged between two libertarian factions: minarchists and anarcho-capitalists.  In 1974, the Libertarian Party papered-over the dispute with one of the oddest compromises in political history: the Dallas Accord. Under its terms, the LP platform remained silent on the very question of whether government should exist!

Since then, libertarians have definitely moderated.  But as far as I can tell, the moderation led to the near-demise not of anarcho-capitalism, but of minarchism!  I have no data, but I do have decades of daily libertarian interaction under my belt.  It has literally been years since I've heard a libertarian self-identify as a "minarchist."  It's not just semantic.  It has also been years since I've heard a libertarian say, "Government should provide police, courts, national defense, and nothing else." 

Instead, most libertarians now have a long and broad list of exceptions to libertarian principles - everything from banning discrimination to fighting contagious disease to building roads to providing a social safety net.  The libertarians who oppose all these deviations are now typically anarcho-capitalists, not minarchists.

The result, as far as I can tell, is that anarcho-capitalism has become the modal libertarian position.  It has a smaller market share than in the 70s, but zero is focal in a way that "minimal" isn't.  More moderate libertarians have fanned out to embrace a vast range of ideas, but no specific moderate position now predominates.

Party-line Objectivists are the only plausible chunk of remaining minarchists.  Ayn Rand, after all, explicitly embraced the position.  Atlas Shrugged:
The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.
Even Objectivists, though, have fanned out since the 80s.  See for example the Leonard Peikoff-Yaron Brooks debate on immigration.

If anyone knows of good data on the prevalence of minarchism, please share.  Barring that, I welcome your impressions - especially the impressions of libertarians over 40.

P.S. Capla-Con 2015 is this weekend.  All who call me friend are welcome in my home - the heart of my Beautiful Bubble.


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COMMENTS (44 to date)
Nick Zaiac writes:

A more conservative libertarian who works with a lot of lawmakers once related to me some stories of his talking with legislators about tax policy, and the biggest takeaway was that "people understand 0". Or, it's a lot easier to explain "nothing" versus "some super limited thing" when it comes to policy.

I think this force is clearly in play, which, over time, would erode any "way less than now, but more than nothing" kind of opinion as a unified political force. Those bound to compromise at all will either drift beyond the traditional minarchist position or into anarcho-capitalism in some sense or another. Minarchism itself draws bright lines on both the anarchist and statist fronts, bounded by definition. Any curious person would question these lines, so it seems only natural that they couldn't hold up as a modal position for a prolonged period of time.

Levi Russell writes:

Austin Petersen, who seems to have a somewhat substantial following, recently made some waves with his "5 reasons I'm not an anarchist."

http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/5-reasons-why-im-not-an-anarchist/

I don't find it particularly convincing and I suspect I'm not alone.

Sheldon Richman writes:

My former employer, the Future of Freedom Foundation, remains staunchly minarchist, with none of the deviations you refer to.

Andrew_FL writes:

I'd consider myself a minarchist, but I wouldn't use the term "libertarian" without qualification to describe myself.

Matt Moore writes:

I'm a minarchist - in that I think individual liberty would be maximised with a non-zero state.

Ah... the narcissism of small differences

Michael B. writes:

This is anecdotal, but it seemed to me that a lot of new libertarian millinials who were converted to minarchism by Ron Paul were so disillusioned by how his campaign turned out, that they became anarchists. They say that reform is impossible. Granted, they just might be the louder than minarchists rather than more numerous. In theory though, if most of the loudest intellectuals and activists are anarchists, then no wonder anarchism became to be viewed as the core of a big tent libertarianism.

NZ writes:

To a totalitarian, isn't everyone who isn't a totalitarian or an anarchist a minarchist?

Personally, I'm sympathetic to both totalitarianism and anarchocapitalism, but I identify somewhere approximately right between the two.

Anyway, I had a debate with a guy just last week who said he's a minarchist, and I can't remember but he might have said he's an Objectivist too. Also, the boyfriend of one of my former coworkers was a self-identified minarchist who was running for some local office.

I've never met an anarchocapitalist in real life, even back when I considered myself one and thus would have been inclined to meet others.

NZ writes:

PS. That debate I had last week that I mentioned was in meatspace.

Andrew writes:

I don't find it useful to use libertarian as a noun as much as an adjective. There are libertarian strains of liberalism, socialism and conservatism, just as there are statist/authoritarian strains of each. You'll find the anarcho/minarcho variants in each as well.

RPLong writes:

One of the main reasons I don't call myself a minarchist is because I don't want to have to explain myself to a passionate anarchist. That doesn't mean I believe in anarchy, it just means that I find it useful to respond to a list of an-cap talking points.

But, I do think that "minarchy" is a more accurate word for what appears to be the position of most self-described libertarians. In order to see this, all you have to do is suggest to an an-cap that "anarchy would produce chaos," and observe how quickly they start describing non-state governmental systems.

So most of us do not truly believe in "a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority," nor in "absence of government and absolute freedom of the individual" after all. There is always a caveat; some just prefer that caveat to look a certain way, and some prefer it to look another.

Moebius Street writes:

As a matter of philosophy, if we could live in a perfect world, I'd want it to be anarcho-capitalist.

But in the real world, the need to form coalitions for mutual defense will (as Nozick showed) spawn entities that are functionally indistinguishable from government. And since this is expected, I'd rather just be up front about it, and make its constitution explicit.

So I *like* anarcho-capitalism, but I accept that the best that can actually be achieved is a constitutional minarchy.

Brett Gall writes:

When you increasingly isolate yourself in a Beautiful Bubble, you increasingly find intra-bubble homogeneity.

Bloat the goat writes:

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Yaakov writes:

Bryan, thanks for bringing this issue up, as I was not aware of the term "minarchist".

I believe Jewish law supports Minarchism, and as such I am a minarchist.

I'm 50, have been a libertarian for well over 30 years, initially Randian and then Rothbardian anarcho-capitalist. My impression is that the number of libertarians has vastly increased in the last decades (primarliy due to Ron Paul), and that the biggest influences are still Rand, Rothbard, and now Ron Paul. The number are larger, libertarianism is more well-known in the mainstream, and more and more libertarians are anarchists and adherents of Austrian economics, many of them of the Misesian-Rothbardian strain. It could be the case that not as many ancaps as before use "NAP" or "rights" language, but I'm not sure about that; in my expeirence, most people who eschew principle and rights do not tend to be ancaps.

I would agree that there are fewer explicit identifications as minarchist or defenses of government by minarchists. They seem to know they are a minority now at libertarian events and join with the ancaps in focusing on what the state does wrong, rather than in trying to make a case for the state.

Marc Montoni writes:

Interesting discussion, Bryan. Through my work with the Libertarian Party I know a lot of people who identify as minarchists or anarchists.

I am an anarchist.

Maybe in the political environment it's different -- my perception is that anarchists have mpstly exited the LP and the dwindling number of current members are overwhelmingly minarchist and often openly hostile to anarchists.

And I don't perceive a shift has occurred in what someone means when they say they are anarcho-cap.

At least within the LP.

Then there is the wider libertarian movement. That movement, I do believe, has been transformed by the participation of people who seem mainly to be identifying themselves as "libertarian" just because they think the label is now cool.

These are the new minarchists -- people who cannot understand why there is no philosophical support for a "libertarian" to be in favor of Obamacare.

Bryan's impression is mine also: minarchists are outnumbered by both anarchists and more-than-minarchists in the movement. And anarchists are also much larger in absolute terms, albeit a smaller percentage.

Jesse Connell writes:

I suspect that many libertarians would rather live under totalitarianism than have any marginal improvements in exchange for sacrificing their principles.

Example: if you could politically persuade 51% of the population to change our tax code to a 2% flat consumption tax, but would have to mellow out on stances like "a person should be free to give heroin to their toddler," I suspect a significant number of libertarians would hold firm to their anarcho-capitalist principles and refuse. At least the ones I know would ignore the marginal benefits of the prospective reduced tax and focus on the 'tyranny' of the later prospect.

Josh writes:

As a thirty year old transitioning out of Buckley/Burkeian, National Review conservatism minarchy is attractive. This is rather disconcerting.

_NL writes:

I think that minarchism was never much of a rallying cry and I tend to see it as an exonym more than an endonym. The main demonym is libertarian, which mostly covers both bases.

Libertarians broadly can typically be expected to agree that police have too many powers and commit too many abuses, that the military is bloated and overused, and that courts are too expensive and even confiscatory. So even on the three things minarchists want, they still want major reforms and real cuts. That makes it easy to paper over the differences, especially since there are lots of people who oppose any such reform. It's hard to squabble between abolition and major reform when there are major groups opposing any reform at all.

Also, as somebody who identifies with the A-word philosophically, I'm way too cynical to oppose reforms simply because they aren't abolition. As my philosophy is more fringe, my expectations for policy are more pragmatic.

Vinit Akolkar writes:

A few thoughts:

1) The growing prevalence of institutional analysis & public choice economics could be a factor. While public choice was certainly around in the 70s and 80s, I'm guessing that it was not yet a major pillar of libertarian thought. Most libertarians tend to be well-read and aware of relevant literature in forming their positions, at least compared to the general population. If you're a libertarian today, you're much more likely to have encountered and internalized public choice as a core part of your development. I am assuming here that public choice makes you more sympathetic to anarcho-capitalism.

2) The general population has shifted significantly towards leftism in recent decades. I imagine that the libertarian population has also experienced a similar shift. Many of today's libertarians seem to have liberal roots. So even if you hold some reservations about a fully libertarian world, those reservations are less likely to be about related to the police/courts/military & more about public health/infrastructure/safety nets

3) In recent decades, we've experienced massive failures in the traditional minarchist areas of exception. People in the 70s/80s felt more sympathy towards police, courts, military, and other institutions in charge of maintaining order. Events such as the World Wars, Vietnam, Cold War, genocides were fresh in the national psyche. The current war on drugs was also in its infancy. The minarchist position claims that only the government can carry out certain functions efficiently but the track record of most of the 20th century has proven otherwise. This possibly feeds into #2..


Jeff Riggenbach writes:

I'm 68 and have been a libertarian since high school (from which I graduated in 1964). It seems to me that the Libertarian Party mostly comprises minarchists, but that outside the party, almost all libertarian writers and intellectuals generally are anarchists. As for the rank and file, that's more difficult to assess. Just a day or two ago on Facebook, I encountered a young man who said, "So and So isn't an anarchist; he's a libertarian!" When I chimed in to the thread and pointed out that anarchists *are* libertarians, he was confused and said that all the libertarians he knew believed in very small, limited government.

Tom West writes:

Libertarians broadly can typically be expected to agree that police have too many powers and commit too many abuses, that the military is bloated and overused, and that courts are too expensive and even confiscatory.

Um, pretty much *everybody* feels that way.

Mark V Anderson writes:

Several folks have said that those in the LP are mostly minarchists. But in my opinion no one could sign the Pledge if they accepted any government at all. It is true that the LP must accept government as it is to run people for office, etc. I guess I always figured that the LP worked with government as a pragamtic thing, but for the long view wanted to totally destroy it. It's either that or signing the Pledge means they are hypocrites.

terrymac writes:

I'm 59. I would say that there are many more libertarians than 30-40 years ago. Used to be, a living room would hold the entire libertarian contingent for a small city. Now, it's common to meet that many libertarians - and more - on any campus. Among activists, anarchists dominate minarchists by a large margin. It's not atypical to find 9 anarchists for 1 minarchist.

At the same time, there are a lot of "minarchist plus" types in the larger, less deeply-involved movement. Most common "plus" categories include forced vaccinations, roads, immigration, and (cursed be their names forever) war-profit-tarians who claim to believe that war is about "defense" rather than about profits and the killing of innocents.

Howard Pearce writes:

As far as I am concerned there has always been a "compromise" of supporting the concept of government BUT NOT the concept of state (a government with a coercive monopoly).

I no longer use the word anarchist at all to describe my beliefs as it is misleading !

I am simply a libertarian that opposes ALL coercive monopolies !

Except for people's stubborn refusal to make an effort at distinguishing the two concepts, I cannot figure why there was no easy "compromise".

AS writes:

The trouble with minarchism is it tends to be a slippery slope to totalitarianism. Example: the United States, 1789-present. The best way to prevent a central government from growing too large is to not have one in the first place.

Joe Cushing writes:

I made comments to this point a few times, here, about a year ago. They we're pretty much unnoticed or refuted. I've noticed that most of my friends, who are all anarchists, were not so before 2012. Some were but there seems to be a wave that hit us around that time. I think this is where society is headed. The state will eventually end. It's only been around, in its current form, for about 100 years. Before then, the technology to be so ever present in our lives didn't exist. There is no reason to think this is a permanent situation.

Jim writes:

I'll 2nd the Joe Cushing comment. Minarchist in 20's. I didn't/couldn't punch through the myth of the state till 2012 while still in my 30's. Combo of RPs 2nd run, LRC website, Woods podcast, Caplans blog, etc. Basically modern technology meeting old school politics during GOP presidential run. Otherwise us 'civilians' don't have time or a care to monk mode and read everything required to finally hate the state. It requires a tremendous amount of self confidence and truth seeking to finally proclaim yourself an anarchist. I still keep it quiet if you want to remain employable and marriageable, the real hurdle to achieving liberty.

Walter Clark writes:

No commenter has mentioned what I think is obvious that Republicans are becoming the minarchists and to distinguish themselves from them, the Ron Paul libertarians choose to identify with the more colorful libertarians even though they probably couldn't adequately defend a free market in protection agencies.
Those of us who had the privilege of knowing Samuel Konkin remember how he radicalized us at the supper clubs he attended. But as we became like him he felt obligated to be more radical to the point where he didn't make sense. I find myself doing that with my friends as they move slowly toward freedom, I try to maintain my ability to shock.

mico writes:

"Instead, most libertarians now have a long and broad list of exceptions to libertarian principles - everything from banning discrimination to fighting contagious disease to building roads to providing a social safety net. The libertarians who oppose all these deviations are now typically anarcho-capitalists, not minarchists."

That hasn't been my observation nor does it make sense to me at all. Someone who makes those exceptions is just a social democrat/centrist.

Are you sure that libertarians have moderated, as opposed to more moderates adopting the libertarian label to distinguish themselves from the centrist parties, but without really abandoning centrist principles?

Nick Clark writes:

I'm 38 and would second what Joe Cushing said. I was first exposed to libertarian ideas (because of online debate forums) in my late twenties. Over the course of several years, I shed my leftism to become a minarchist, and then finally to shed my statism altogether and identified as an anarchist in 2012. A big part of the final leg of that journey was down to Facebook discussions. Since that time, my personal experience is that libertarians are by far dominated by anarchists, and the minarchists with any integrity are just on their way to embracing anarchism. As for the "libertarians" who expand into supporting broader expanses of statism, I would say that most of the libertarians I know would very quickly point out that the only meaningful terms are "statists," and "anarchists," which I think says a lot.

I had a book signing at a local Libertarian Party convention, and the director said that the members are split 50/50 between ancaps and minarchists. I found this interesting, because most ancaps are "small L" libertarians.

Brian White writes:

I self identify as an anarchist for philosophical reasons and most specifically because nobody has the right to use force against me or anybody else unless I or they are a threat or are actually using force instead of engaging in commerce. This is essentially the non-aggression principle. It does not mean I expect safe conduct, that's naive. The NAP does not guarantee safe conduct or anything but it is indelible nonetheless because no reasoning can justify the use of force.

I believe philosophical anarchy is critical to reigning in government. If government is regarded as superseding voluntarism it gains rights and being a thing it does not have rights. It's a tool and its agents are service providers. This is the way we need to view it and until more of us do so the residents of America will never reform this leviathan that has taken over. We will always be arguing over governments' rights instead of our own. We can be anarchists and have government but not so long as we are subjects rather than customers.

iflyboats writes:

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Sean L. writes:

It seems to me a very easy thing to figure out why minarchism is going away: It is a naturally hypocritical stance.

If you're the kind of person who thinks, "I'm okay with the state taking people's money for roads because no one else will do it" then it's not a giant leap to find other things that 'no one else will do.'

On the other hand, if you're the kind of person who thinks "It's immoral to take money by force -- even for things like food for the poor' then you will likely be led to consider *every* use of money taken by force as immoral, including police and courts.

(Sean): "It seems to me a very easy thing to figure out why minarchism is going away: It is a naturally hypocritical stance."

Some wise man once said "a hypocrite is a man who ... But aren't we all?" Between the choices "impossible" (anarcho-capitalism) and "hypocritical" (less government than now) I'll take "hypocritical".

Welcome to life on the slippery slope.

Elizabeth Van Horn writes:

I'm 54 yrs old, and have voted libertarian since mid-'80's. Was libertarian even before I started voting for LP candidates, but didn't see any on the ballot.

I'm what others call a minarchist. Most of the libertarians I know in real life, not online, are also minarchist.

The minarchist are insulted and denigrated by the ancaps, so it's not surprising that you're not hearing more from us. (I'd be happy to show you some examples)

Also, I don't think minarchists are in a minority, we've just been quieter.

JohnBinNH writes:

I'm 62. I identified as libertarian as soon as I knew about the label and was in the LP for some years.

More experience of real people and more knowledge of history and anthropology has made me less optimistic about the average person's ability to be free (Machiavelli was a big influence here), so I am in now the minarchist camp but definitely at the monarchist/elitist/anti-democratic edge: I'd like a minimal government but I believe it has to be run by an elite to stay freedom-preserving in the medium term.

That's not to say I like that conclusion, and I don't think an aristocratic republic is freedom-preserving in the long term.

Thomas B writes:

I call myself a libertarian, but I come at it from what I think is a rather different direction, that of game theory.

In my view, it matters not whether you "support" a government. You're going to get one, and that's probably a good scenario. Why? Because anarchies are unstable. Thugs with armies will arise (who would stop them?) and will try to subjugate the population to tax it. If one succeeds, you have a government. If two (or more) try and neither wins, you have perpetual war, and the cost of perpetual war is high. The reason the state maintains a monopoly on violence is not that it the population "supports" it, but to prevent rivals from taking over its tax revenues. Government is not optional, and we don't get to impose our morality on it.

But... not all governments are the same. History shows that governments that enforce market-oriented economic rights, limit interpersonal violence, and apply the rule of law tend to find themselves - eventually - ruling over wealthy countries with rich populations to tax.

As a libertarian, I advocate that governments - acting in their self interest - should prefer a public policy in which there is a strong, but rebuttable presumption of liberty. Strong, meaning liberty is the default unless there is a compelling contrary case. Rebuttable, meaning that I accept that a contrary case can - and likely would - exist for such things as enforcement of property rights, prohibitions on initiating interpersonal violence, etc.

This kind of libertarian perspective does not justify or advocate government power; it accepts it for what it is - something close to a force of nature. It also allows a discussion of what the appropriate limits of state intervention might be, neither denying reality by positing a world without state intervention nor helplessly accepting the intrusive state.

Notice, too, that this kind of libertarianism is not rooted in democracy, as such: it marries individual liberties to the long-term welfare of the government, against the prejudices of the population and the self-interest of officials.

Michael Miller writes:

Nowadays, I don't hear the word "minarchis(t)(m)" much, if the issue is merely the use of the word.

Back in the early days (circa 1970), the term "libertarian" referred only to "anarchists" and "minarchists," and the latter meant only national defense, police and courts. Minarchists were clearly the majority. There seem to be a lot more people these days than then who think they are "anarchists." I can't say that I've come across anyone recently who wants government to involve only national defense, police and courts (but I don't doubt Sheldon's word about FFF).

However, the term "minarchism" itself really just means advocacy of "minimal government." Assuming that means minimal *advisable* that does not violate any rights, it should include a good deal more than national defense, police and courts, though an awful lot less than most self-described "libertarians" advocate these days. I would consider myself "minarchist" in this sense, though I don't use the word. There may be a lot more folks than I.

Brian Holtz writes:

In my last 10 years on the LP Platform Committee and attending LP conventions, I'd estimate that minarchists outnumber anarchists by about 2:1. Since 2008 (cf. the Ruwart campaign and the Platform repair), a lot of the old anarchism-vs-minarchism debate has quieted down.

There is a small but growing geolibertarian strain in the LP, which tends to be minarchist. And maybe it's my perception bias, but in recent years it seems that Georgist and Pigovian ideas have gained ground among libertarians and economists. Those ideas are inherently minarchist.

On TV and the Web, minarchists have an indisputably bigger footprint than anarchists. In TV airtime for recent years, minarchists Ron Paul and John Stossel surely dwarf all anarchists put together. For web presence, the data at http://www.lpedia.org/Most_Famous_Libertarians
show that minarchists vastly outrank anarchists in Google's web index.

Bryan, pop your bubble.

Musca writes:

Perhaps the use of the label "minarchist", like "moderate", was originally in use by many from temperament rather than from conviction? If you say that government should be minimized, you ought to be able to state the principles by which one decides whether a function is legitimately pursued by the state or not (that's where Rand shone). "Anarchist" is both immoderate and, not coincidentally, tied to an obvious principle. Those that are "minarchist" by conviction probably label themselves as something else besides, to identify the principles involved (e.g., Objectivist).

Also, minor correction: it's "Yaron Brook", not "Yaron Brooks".

Jake Witmer writes:

I've been a ballot access petitioner for the Libertarian Party for the past 14 years. I've uncovered infiltration (and idiocy/incompetence) in the LP, and I've spoken with thousands of non-libertarians, and registered thousands of former non-libertarians into the LP (a blip on the map that went away, because only those controlling the LP noticed it --the membership of the LP never even found out what I did, and were usually too stupid to do anything remotely close to it themselves). Effectively building the LP in this manner places a target on your head, and the LP is not an intelligent enough organization to follow Blackwell's rules.

(The LP is a disloyal organization, because that's the easiest way to control them -by encouraging natural disloyalty and ego. This is the same way that AIM was infiltrated and derailed by Douglas Durham. The tactics have been very similar: plants provide useful services that the membership is not competent to do on their own without reading several books, and doing difficult work, if ever. This makes the plant "indispensable," and he tests how indispensable they view him to be. If they beg him to stay, he then encourages stupid ideas, and sows dissent and incompetence wherever he can. Durham did this by issuing press releases for AIM stating that all non-natives should be deported. ...Thus killing the donations from white liberals who otherwise supported the natives.)

In any case, "anarchy v. minarchy" is a false debate, and a very stupid waste of time. What I want would be called "anarchy" by both uninformed anarchists and minarchists. Instead, I call it jury independence, or "minarchy," (followed immediately by a simple explanation: "like what the Founding Fathers wanted, minimal government") ...and only to counter confusion about whether "libertarians are anarchists."

...The same is true of what Alexander Hamilton wanted, since he argued the seditious libel law should be nullified in "People Against Croswell" (1804), the same way the earlier Andrew Hamilton argued Zenger (1735) ...directly to the jury, over the threats and objections of the judge. Practically, Spooner also knew this, and thus argued that slavery was unconstitutional, while then-already-believing the constitution had "no authority." Q: Why argue such a case then? Who cares if slavery is unconstitutional if the constitution itself is illegitimate? A: Spooner was smart enough to realize that the American people love the Bill of Rights, and can't imagine the lack of a police and court system to deal with pure sociopaths. This is even more true now in an era of government schooling, TV, and serial killers.

Moreover, as RPLong notes above, all intelligent anarchists go into politically-clueless and long-winded explanations of how anarchy would do X,X, and X (such as, catch and punish / isolate serial killers). While most of the general public won't listen to such explanations, a tiny minority will read them online, agree, and adopt them (generally without much knowledge of practical politics). This accounts for the persistence of anarchism, as well as its total demographic inability to remove tyrants from power.

In any case, such "anarchists" lack the ability to grow into more than 1% of the vote --as evidenced by most delusional LP "paper candidacies." The problem is one of "predicting the future." Most people lack the intellectual machinery to evaluate political ideas on their own merits, much less predict those ideas' likely materialization "in some possible future," and simply use heuristics to judge the messenger, rather than his message. This is their "protection" from cult-leaders, even though they are plenty stupid enough to believe the ideas of cult leaders. (ie: Do I want to be like this guy telling me about the branch davidians? No. OK, then I can ignore him. Do I want to be like this guy telling me about anarchy? No. OK, then I can ignore him. Do I want to be like this guy telling me slavery is immoral and violates the Bill of Rights? Sure, I kinda agree with him already, maybe he can flesh out the argument for me. I'll take his pamphlet!)

Ideas must have some level of public support to be viable. The more internal resistance to any idea, the more it is nonviable. The public respects the precepts they believe America was founded on. The public does not believe those precepts to be "anarchy." The respect for the founders legitimizes their authority. People tend to obey what they believe to be a legitimate authority. (Milgram 1975 "Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View") However, as due process is eroded, we lose our "window of opportunity" to convince the people of the US to cast tyrants out of office by voting Libertarian (or for libertarian candidates in any party).

So yes, Caplan is right: anarchism is mistakenly being adopted by many in the libertarian movement as "the only suitably radical libertarianism." This is, unfortunately, yet more of a slow, lingering death for the adoption and implementation of libertarian policies among the general public. The US general public isn't anarchist. It might, however, be libertarian and minarchist, if the libertarian movement gets its head out of its [REDACTED PROFANITY].

One recent self-declared minarchist, Eliezer Yudkowsky of LessWrong and the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (MIRI), uses the term in thislinked passage:

When people ask me about my politics these days, I sometimes describe myself as “a very small-‘l’ libertarian.” I am—like many libertarians, in my admittedly skewed Silicon Valley experience—just another pot-decriminalizing, prostitution-supporting, computer-programming, science-fiction-reading, Bayesian-statistics-promoting, mainstream-economics-respecting, sex-positive, money-positive, polyamorous atheistic transhumanist government-distrusting minarchist.

Most libertarians don't have a well-constructed position on "anarchy v minarchy," of any kind. They tend to put a straw man in place of their opponents' arguments. Most non-libertarians haven't thought about politics enough to have any non-contradictory view. Most objectivists, libertarians, and anarchists are a joke, with none of them having any clue what the man on the street is thinking, nor any intention of shaping the world in a serious manner. Compare that to Spooner, and his bosses in the law office, Davis and Allen. Davis was an abolitionist governor, Allen became a Free Soil congressman.

The LP can't seem to replicate Dick Randolph's high-water mark between 1978-1982 when he helped elect 3 other Libertarians to the AK State Legislature. Worse, they're lagging behind Rand Paul's leadership in opposing the prison industrial complex, racist law enforcement, drug legalization, due process, civil disobedience as "resistance to civil government", and jury nullification of law).

In truth, "anarchy" doesn't even mean anything. It's a theoretical condition that has never existed, nor ever will without intelligence-supermodification of humans. If it happens then, it's not because humans became convinced of it's merits, it's because a singularity has happened, and humans are now "Homo economicus," a new, more intelligent species. So anarchists spend all their time
dishonestly dickering over definitions.

In short, if minarchy vanishes, then the libertarian movement in the US has also vanished, because people who understood the problem wanted to argue with each other rather than do what the abolitionists did: convince the uninitiated that it was morally wrong to own other people. Want to make a difference? Walk a district, handing out information on voir dire, and jury rights, taking notes, and building a support base. add those supporters to a database, grow your network. Even political-relinquishment-advocating "anarchists" such a Samuel E. Konkin advocated that level of "internal" organization. (He failed to realize that there aren't enough people alive to pay for that type of organization, outside the clearly-defined and well-understood goals of winning political office. Organization that isn't paid for, doesn't happen.)

In truth, the argument is simply radicalism vs. non-radicalism as a threshold-based value. Some minarchists are insufficiently radical [REDACTED PROFANITY] who think legislators' legislation is legitimate because they got elected. (They know nothing about the History of the common law.) Some anarchists are insufficiently radical [REDACTED PROFANITY] who think all "statists" are of the former variety, and they continuously erect straw men even more idiotic than the ones erected by such weak "constitutionalists." Other minarchists are aware that, if the constitution and common law were followed, then every single criminal prosecution would be impossible, due to randomly-selected juries. (Juries haven't been randomly-selected since "voir dire" was implemented in 1851 to allow enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law. This is still the way every unjust law is enforced. When unphilosophical voters learn this fact, about 1/10 of them immediately embrace "jury-independence" style minarchist libertarianism. It doesn't need to be spelled out as minarchist, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights provide for the common law, of which juries are the dominant feature.) Every criminal prosecution, given random, informed juries, would need to prove two elements of a valid corpus delicti, given the restoration of this test. Since that is statistically unlikely with even 5% informedresistance, that is the state's weak point. (.95^12=.5403; a prosecutor has a 54% chance of enforcing a law that only 5% of jurors disagree with, if the jurors are informed about voir dire, and their right to override the law. Keep in mind that the Founding Father who most favored "big government" (Alexander Hamilton) and the Founding Fathers who most favored "small government"(John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine) all favored jury independence.)

If the US couldn't enforce taxation, legal tender, prohibitions, or gun laws, it would be, by definition, small-L libertarian. Would it be anarchist or minarchist? ...Who cares? Both are possible, but since we currently have a state, and even people as smart as Stanley Milgram (in "Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View") have noted that the absence of the state arguably leaves a "power vacuum" that tends to get filled by sociopaths, I'd bet on minarchy. (Voters comprehend the idea quickly, and face-to-face contact with voters is the cheapest form of outreach that produces useful results.) Moreover, as I've noted, the general public (in their default condition) doesn't begin any conversation agreeing with anarchy, but they do agree with a formulation of minarchy that restores their power as Jurors. This message is very popular, properly stated. Anarchy is not popular, even perfectly stated, because it's a dishonest, "suitcase term". Even if the fact that "life takes place in the anarchic spaces between government regulation" gets through to the average voter, that fact is perfectly compatible with a suitably radical formulation of "minarchy" (also a hypothetical state of existence, but one for which there is continuum-based evidence --since less government = US in the 1950s, and more government = Soviet Russia in the 1950s).

I like to harbor delusions that there's another human mind out there capable of comprehending the true fact that sociopaths won't surrender power to disorganized, unserious people. I suspected this when I was in high school, and somehow was lulled into a false sense of security by the seeming incompetence and servility of society at large. I thought: maybe they really are that stupid, maybe there's been no serious freedom movement out there. Now, I know that's not the case. However, when one moves closer to contests that have dollar figures attached to them, one finds the seriousness level is ratcheted up. The sociopaths get serious about preventing competition for the offices of power they crave. (Even pro-social sociopaths are at a psychological disadvantage in the private sector. One wrong emotional response can derail a career.)

You cannot be located too far away from the general electorate on the Nolan Chart, and win elections. One example of "too far away," is "off the chart." Philosophy and strategy both matter, but even the libertarian philosophy must be fought for. As a "philosophy" anarchy goes "too far" for the electorate, and is thus totally strategically nonviable. It also seems to "go against" the Declaration of Independence, in one single motion, ie:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;

Moreover, no immediate solution is possible from "anarchy" (due to voters at best hungering for a consistent libertarian minarchist option; at worst clinging to coercive collectivism). Worse still, voters see a long-term solution of "anarchy" as strategically delusional (if one seat is won by anarchy per election, how are those victories incrementally added to?). Said another way: the philosophically worthless voters would be happy to vote for libertarians who will abolish the Federal Reserve, the drug war, and restore the jury system. ...But those serious candidates are not offered by the LP because the significant positions in the LP are externally controlled. The insignificant positions in the LP are not externally-controlled, but they are populated by people who don't care about or understand strategy. This allows the external (or perverse) controllers to shape every significant decision in LNC meetings, and daily operation where votes are taken.

Another fault of "anarchy as a goal" is that if it assumes incremental form, it has taken the form of "minarchy." Since minarchy is far more attractive to the public than anarchy, how does the anarchist motivate those who have won the immense benefits of minarchy to "keep going" toward anarchy? Moreover, how does one motivate anarchists to begin an attempt if this is the obvious incremental step? (They must be committed, not to their stated goal then, but to a "libertarianism," which they, by their title, have already sworn off. They are self-selecting for an obvious disappointment, and they are also self-selecting for not being aware of this obvious disappointment.)

Another fault of "anarchy as a goal" is that it is inherently violent, but its supporters are not smart enough to see that. This further pushes people who are simple sock puppets of existing inadequate thought into calling themselves "anarchists." For illustration of this point, consider what would happen if 99% of society stayed home on election day, and yet, totalitarians won every election. Having built up police forces in anticipation of this scenario, those forces would simply use force to maintain their positions of power, and violent conflict would ensue. Now imagine that only 20% of the electorate votes for totalitarians, but they win the elections. The "anarchists" sit at home on election day, and the existing totalitarian state claims they are too lazy and stupid to vote, and that totalitarianism has the will of the people. (This happens right now.) So, between now (20% support for totalitarianism, with 80% nonvoting) and a more totalitarian future (.001% support for totalitarianism, with 99.99% nonvoting), there is no scenario in which a single totalitarian is removed from office by any anarchist, or anarchist idea. If a "political relinquishment"-favoring anarchist doesn't believe this to be true, he knows nothing of sociopath psychology. Debt could sink our society, there could be chaos in the streets, and the totalitarians would cling to power, demanding more police to "stop the chaos." So how do totalitarians get removed from office: (1) by being voted out, or (2) the office collapsing under violence or the threat of violence. (3) Sociopaths voluntarily relinquishing power, due to fear of #2 prior. So what about #1 or #3 prior producing anarchy? Sorry, it won't be called anarchy, it will then be called minarchy, because: (4) Steps taken toward anarchy inherently result first in something that can be plausibly called "constitutionalism" or minarchy. Such labeling allows for easier additional victories, and is currently far more popular. (and at no step along the continuum would it be any "less popular," nor would it ever be "less popular than anarchy"). (5) Radical minarchy would be called "anarchy," by most people, and anarchists would still then have minarchy, not the anarchy they seek.

If the prior seem like assertions without evidence, I assure you, no employable libertarian political petitioner would last a week without coming to similar conclusions. If academia doesn't comprehend this, then perhaps that's one problem in the philosophy-heavy, strategy-light "libertarian movement." (Ron Paul, by the way, has generated far more "libertarians,"(no additional descriptor) "minarchists," or "constitutionalists" in recent years than Ayn Rand has. That Yaron Brook continues to deride Ron Paul, presumably for being a better radical for capitalism than himself, is insane.) In many ways, Ron Paul is key to understanding this state of affairs: he was seen as a (1) strategically-viable and (2)sufficiently radical and philosophically-consistent candidate. He publicly denied being an anarchist, and called himself a constitutionalist, not even a minarchist. Yet, he was very clearly a minarchist, or closet anarchist. If he was a closet anarchist, then he saw clearly that it would have hurt him politically to declare so. If he was wrong, he was under the impression it would have hurt him politically. However, even if wrong, he never would have gotten to the point he got to without being a minarchist, because he had to win local elections in TX, and those on the ground knew that being labeled an anarchist, or even a libertarian, would have eliminated all chance of re-election necessary to give him the bully-pulpit he enjoyed in his presidential run. (Paul very explicitly stated his difference from Spooner, in his belief that the constitution was legitimate, and not "of no authority." Spooner, for what it's worth, wasn't even an anarchist, but a common-law-restorative minarchist.)

Elections reduce government power on an infrequent basis, but it does happen when people run on a platform of reducing government power, get elected, and then do it. It also helps to have a libertarian I & R campaign associated with one's campaign, to both keep the politicians honest, and give libertarian-leaning civilians a "backup plan." Lots of things can go wrong with this, but it has been proven possible. Not so, any organized anarchist movement. Even when Czolgosz shot McKinley, McKinley was simply replaced, and the US got a Federal Reserve Bank 12 years later. Czolgosz was hated and scorned by nearly everyone but Emma Goldman, and later, Vennaskond. If anarchists are going to trade one anarchist per statist, I suggest they are losing far more than they are gaining, even in terms of creative destruction. ...But I digress.

There are known cybernetic strategies for correcting this pathetic state of affairs, but dickering over terminology of possible future hypothetical scenarios is not one of them. (One such strategy is to build competence guidelines into the LP platform itself. In many ways, this is what the constitution has already done, and the constitution has been vastly more viable than the LP platform. Another viable strategy is to use hack-proof membership voting to decide the course of the LP, which would, of course, need to be done in a very open way, with fail-safes built in, else current internal controllers would simply design the system to be ineffectual.)

One only knows a cybernetic or "black box" system by its output. 35 years of failure caused by obvious intentional nonperformance is not explainable by simple incompetence. However, this is not my reason for believing the LP is infiltrated (that reason is, primarily, mountains of direct personal experience with malevolent seemingly irrational agents who lacked any motive for malevolence). Sometimes people misinterpret perversely-incentivized cybernetic systems as malevolently-controlled. This is a common belief among members of the LP. Then, when they show up to meetings, they encounter the phrase "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence." ...To a point. ...Unless you're dealing with adversarial systems. (Lots of libertarians are engineers, so you'd think they'd have read "Cybernetics" and the other books that explain the differences between simple physical systems and adversarial information systems. However, this is generally not the case.) For more understanding along these lines, I strongly recommend:
The Real Nature of Politics

So, we'd have already seen astounding results from a serious minarchist libertarian party. Those results would look like the 1978-1982 results obtained by Dick Randolph. (One legislative seat in a low-population state taken, followed rapidly by several more. The eyes of the nation on that "experiment," followed by people moving to be a part of it. NH is not attractive for this reason because the SL there is 400+ members, and the movement runs out of electable libertarians before it wins a simple majority. Basic math skills rule out NH as a first-mover possibility. For this reason, the Free State Project is delusional as a purely electoral movement. If one adds to that, the lack of I&R, and the lack of a jury-centric candidate focus, I'd put high odds on massive infiltration of the FSP State Choice vote or organization.)

Serious libertarian efforts are fought very hard by the status quo. Unserious efforts fought with enough strength to prevent a serious contest (using statistical knowledge that far outstrips that of unserious libertarians). For example: libertarians gain access to the ballot very late in the campaign cycle, and are overcoming severe disadvantages in terms of voter-recognition. There's an obvious serious response: "So what? Start very early, campaign without knowing you'll be on the ballot!" (The kinds of people who run for office have large egos, and are good public speakers. Such people hate large uncertainty, and avoid it. Running as a determined candidate without knowing you'll definitely be on the ballot is counter to their overly philosophical nature. The amount of time one must start early is very large, and if there's a ballot access failure, all that time is 100% wasted.) Few people are determined to run seriously, without certain ballot access. Those who are serious see this shortcoming of running "Libertarian," and run as Ds or Rs. (Those who do that are largely absorbed by the caucus system, corrupted, or weakened by the desire to gain easy "major party" re-election.)

So, the one overtly minarchist option is largely corrupted and incompetent. There is no anarchist option. This is because an anarchist option (all candidates promise to resign their post) would likely not accomplish anything. It wouldn't be seen as viable (then again, due to its simplicity, and the LP's infiltration/incompetence, it might actually achieve more than the LP). In any case, it would be a novelty that is less attractive than the LP.

Every system itself is determined by the cost of resisting the laws. Unpopular laws are disobeyed, no matter the cost, because of demand for black market services. Thus, as Nick Szabo wrote: in reality, every law is "opt-in" to the extent it is obeyed. This alone indicates far larger support for minarchism than what the LP has been able to produce. This in no way indicates support for "anarchy." Real or not, the public believes that the existing serial killers would go further, do more harm, without an ISU and police. Since there can be no proof of such a hypothetical anarchists are strictly academic, and 100% electorally unrepresented. So, in spite of anarchists agreeing with radical minarchist goals (set Ross Ulbricht and Schaeffer Cox free; make drug prohibition impossible; make prostitution prohibition impossible; make tax-nonpayment prohibition impossible; etc...), they contribute nothing to the achievement of those goals.

The specter of insipid young republicans,highly strategically dedicated to a philosophically uninspiring cause (such as arguing for a 2% reduction in the income tax levels, etc.) is generally what causes radical minarchists to call themselves anarchists. However, as noted above, the problem has far more to do with a lack of result-based "proof of concept." This stems from a superficial comprehension of Spooner's quote,

“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”
― Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority"

I'd write more, maybe a full memoir, but we'll see if this seed falls on soil first.

[comment edited by commenter--Econlib Ed.]

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